False Humility Makes Me Want to Vomit

The campus pastor at the Bible college I attended told a story that I have never forgotten:

He and his wife were visiting a church and ended up sitting behind an older couple. After the first song, the elderly woman turned around and said, “What beautiful voices you both have. I feel like I am being serenaded by an angelic choir.” My campus pastor was embarrassed and shook his head, saying, “Oh, we don’t sing all that well. But it’s nice of you to say that.” To which the elderly woman replied,

“False humility makes me want to vomit.” And promptly turned around.

He used that story to challenge us to learn to say “thank you” – without a qualification after it (“We don’t sing all that well…”). He also used that story to challenge us to acknowledge the gifts that God has given each of us. Because God has given gifts to each of us.

Now stop right there. I know some of you reading this just thought. “Nuh-uh. Not me. I can’t do ANYTHING.”

Do I need to bring the old lady back?

Here’s the problem — I think we can all acknowledge there are things we like to do. We like to sing, we like to play sports, we like to draw. But we know we aren’t the best at any of those. And we figure since there are so many others who are better, we are being arrogant to say that we are any good at all.

But our abilities are gifts – given to us by God. If we are praised for our abilities, we thank the person who was kind enough to complement us, and we acknowledge that those gifts are from our Savior. It’s not arrogant to accept a complement, nor is it arrogant to recognize that we are gifted in certain areas. Taking credit for our gifts – that’s arrogant. Making fun of those who aren’t as talented? That’s just plain mean. But saying “Thank you”? That is not just polite, it is affirming – to both you and the person complementing you.

Moral of the story: A ‘thank you’ is better than a barf bag.


  1. Heather Day Gilbert
    Oct 13, 2013

    I love it! I have a major issue with disclaimer-ing any praise I get. This is a good reminder (and I love old women who say what they really think!). And seeing that I’ve liked several of your blogposts in a row, I suspect I’d like your books, too. Will have to check ’em out!

  2. This is great! I have a hard time accepting compliments as well. I think some of that comes from being raised in the South where we are taught to be super polite and humble — even falsely so (though dismissing a compliment seems rude now that I think about it).

    Thank you for the reminder that GOD has gifted us with talents, skills, and abilities. If I can give Him praise for a gift when someone else compliments me, that could very well be the reason for the gift in the first place!

  3. Jean
    Oct 14, 2013

    Sometimes I just say, “Thank you! Glory to God!” or a simple thank you. I used to be that way too- all humble but it was coated in false sugar because I wanted to seem superior. What an oxymoron!

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